ISLAMABAD: The leader of the Church of Pakistan has urged Christians to unite on one platform to address the challenges facing the community.
“Our community has been subject to numerous injustices, including forced conversions and marriages of underage girls, misuse of the blasphemy laws, lack of economic opportunities, and underrepresentation in parliament and other sectors etc. However, I firmly believe that if we come together as a united front, we can face these challenges head-on and emerge stronger than ever before,” said Bishop Dr Azad Marshall, the presiding bishop of the Church of Pakistan, while addressing the launch ceremony of Pakistan Christian Council International (PCCI) at a local hotel here.
PCCI is an initiative of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Kamran Michael aimed at bringing together Pakistani Christians.
Bishop Marshall emphasized the need for setting aside intra-community differences and working towards a common goal – the betterment of the Christian community.
“Let us not be divided by denominational and political differences. Instead, let us focus on our shared faith and the challenges we face as Christians,” he said.
The senior church leader said that one of the most pressing challenges the community was facing was the issue of forced conversions and marriages of underage Christian girls.
“This is a heinous crime that must be condemned in the strongest terms possible. We must work to raise awareness about this issue and demand that our government take action to protect our girls and women. It is also important to provide support to the families affected by this issue and to empower our women and girls to stand up for their rights,” he added.
Bishop Marshall also spoke on the misuse of the blasphemy laws. “These laws are meant to protect religious sentiments but have often been used to target minorities and silence dissent. We must demand that these laws be reformed to prevent their misuse and protect the rights of all citizens. We must also work to raise awareness about the issue and educate people about the importance of religious tolerance and respect for diversity,” he said.
The president bishop also called for proper enumeration during the national population census campaign to ensure that Christians are fairly represented in all areas of society.
“We must also work towards empowering our youth and women to take on leadership roles and become agents of change,” he said, lauding Senator Michael for taking the initiative of launching PCCI.
Addressing the gathering, Senator Michael said he had reached out to leaders of all church denominations and other stakeholders to share the vision of PCCI.
“The challenges we are facing can only be addressed through lobbying and legislation and this is what we are aiming to achieve through PCCI,” he said.
The participants of the event included bishops of the CoP dioceses of Peshawar, Sialkot and Multan, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayyed, diplomats from some European countries and community members.